Gezegend – Chapter 8
“The Broden have given up, Commander,” Harry reported as Voyager sped away from the Broden home world at warp nine. The pursuing Broden ships did not actually turn back as much as they simply stopped their pursuit and watched Voyager disappear into the distance. For them, it was a sad farewell. For Chakotay, it was an overwhelming relief.
“Stand down from red alert and lower shields,” Chakotay ordered. He looked down at himself and realized that he was still wearing the white woolen robe that he’d donned for his visit to the ashram. He untied the belt and shrugged out of the hot garment as he rose from his seat prepared to leave the bridge. “Continue on this course at warp nine for the time being. Mr. Tuvok, I’d like to talk to you in the ready room.”
“Very well,” the Vulcan replied.
Chakotay glanced at Tom Paris. “You have the bridge.”
The plan to rescue the captain had gone perfectly, and for that, everyone was grateful. She had been beamed to sickbay as soon as Neelix’s ship was within transporter range, but that act had required the Talaxian ship to decloak, which gave the Broden military the first hint that there was more going on than a shuttle on the bottom of the arctic ocean.
Several Broden vessels pursued Neelix’s ship with phasers firing, but Tom had managed to get inside Voyager’s shuttle bay before they sustained any serious damage. Chakotay had rushed to the bridge to facilitate Voyager’s escape from the Broden system. Now, as the adrenaline wore off, Chakotay found himself fighting exhaustion.
As the ready room door closed behind the two men, Chakotay tossed the robe on one of the visitor chairs and headed for the replicator. “Can I get you some tea, Tuvok?”
“Yes, thank you.” He followed Chakotay to the upper level, accepted the tea, and took a seat, watching as Chakotay sprawled on the sofa with a cup of coffee large enough to be worthy of their captain. “I thought you might want to check on the captain’s condition and then do a quick debriefing.”
“I probably should do just that,” Chakotay replied, taking a sip of his coffee. “But I’m physically strapped and emotionally drained. It’s been nearly thrity-six hours since I slept, and I’m about to drop in my tracks. I thought we might talk things through for now and meet with the senior staff later. Once I leave the bridge, I’m afraid I’ll be gone for a while.”
“Understood. We can schedule a formal debriefing for tomorrow.”
“If I’m awake by then.” Chakotay took a deep breath and shook his head. “As usual, when we get to the end of one of these near-death experiences, I look back in horror at the deeds we’ve done.”
“We faced an exceptionally complex situation.”
“It was worse than complex, Tuvok. By taking a precious gezegen from the Broden priests, we literally destroyed one of their most sacred rites. I can’t think that the captain is going to be pleased by that.”
“We had few alternatives. And, in any event, I suspect the Broden will blame our actions on the fact that the captain is an alien. Their priests will find a way to reconcile what happened, perhaps by stressing that it was a mistake that she was so chosen.”
“I hope you’re right.” He stared blindly across the room. “At least, to our knowledge, no one lost a life because of our rescue attempt.”
“No, and all we lost was our oldest, most damaged shuttle.”
Chakotay groaned. “The captain will not be pleased by that, you know. She thinks it’s a waste of time and resources that our crew is constantly rebuilding and replacing shuttles, but I tell her that it keeps the crew busy. She seems to take umbrage with that attitude.”
“There is some truth in what you say, although it is a never-ending task. In this case, we also learned that the remote piloting device that Tom and B’Elanna have been working on actually works well.”
“It really did, Tuvok. The empty shuttle was an integral part of our success, giving the Broden something to chase after. That program will come in handy again someday, as will the cloak we installed on Neelix’s ship.”
“Indeed. The cloak has also proven to be a good investment of time and equipment.” Tuvok finished his tea and set the empty cup on the table. “The Broden will not welcome the next alien ship the way they welcomed Voyager.”
Chakotay groaned and rubbed his face. “Don’t remind me. I feel like I just bullied a helpless, innocent friend.”
“It was inevitable that the Broden would eventually experience that painful fall from innocence.”
“But not at our expense.” He gave the Vulcan a wary look. “Have we heard anything about the captain’s condition?”
“On last report, I understand that she is still in critical condition.”
“She was more dead than alive when I got to her, Tuvok. The ‘ritual’ I went through helped keep her alive and certainly fooled the priests.” He forced back a yawn. “We were lucky that the Broden were not very sophisticated or suspicious about our motives.”
“It makes sense that our religion would have some sort of death ritual.”
“They were as respectful of our ‘bogus’ ritual as we were disrespectful of their real one.”
“They found it impossible to imagine that anyone would disregard their religious practices.”
“The prime directive says we’re supposed to respect those beliefs, Tuvok.”
The Vulcan disagreed. “Not at the price of our captain’s life.”
“I suppose not, but I wonder, sometimes.” He stretched and checked the time. “The truth is that we lucked out.”
“We did. I hope that you don’t feel guilty about any of this, Commander. We did what we had to do.” Tuvok stood up. “You’re exhausted. Perhaps you should check on the captain and get then some rest.”
When Chakotay left the ready room and boarded the turbolift, he decided that he wasn’t going to take the time to go to his quarters and change out of the rest of his “shaman” garb. He was afraid that he would crawl into bed when he should go straight to sickbay to see about Kathryn. And so, he ordered the ‘lift to Deck Five and promised himself that he wouldn’t leave sickbay until he was sure that she was going to survive.
He arrived to find the doctor in one of his terrible moods.
“Commander, I can’t believe that the Broden didn’t treat the captain’s knee injury! I haven’t seen gangrene this bad in . . . well, I’ve never seen gangrene this bad.”
“They felt the wound was part of her selection as a divine messenger.”
“Well, I’m going to have to regenerate most of the tendons and ligaments around the knee, not to mention the muscles in her thigh and calf. The treatment is going to take at least two weeks, and you know how the captain is going to react to that.”
Chakotay winced. “She’s going to keep the leg, though.”
“Of course, she is!” The doctor gave him an exasperated look. “This isn’t the dark ages, Commander. I’m not going to cut the leg off when I can heal it.”
“Thank God for that.” Chakotay approached the biobed where the captain lay under the critical care cowling. “How about the poison?”
“The antidote you provided during the ritual eradicated any residual traces of the poison.”
“So it had already disappeared?”
“The poison had been excreted from her system, but the side effects were much more serious than I anticipated.”
“Her human enzymes interacted with the poison in a way I didn’t foresee, bringing about a pretty dramatic mutation. As a result, serious damage was done to her heart and lungs. It affected the amount of oxygen in her blood.”
“That sounds serious.”
“Very serious. She would have suffered serious brain damage from oxygen deprivation if it hadn’t been for the pain medication.”
Chakotay was confused. “I thought that medication is what brought on her addiction problem?”
“It did, but it also had a beneficial side effect of increasing her blood oxygen enough to avoid the brain damage.”
“Amazing. The drug that was supposed to ease her into death actually kept her from serious injury.” Chakotay placed a hand on the captain’s shoulder. “She was pretty lucky, then.”
“And her prognosis at this point?”
“Besides the two weeks of physical therapy, she has at least of week of drug rehabilitation.”
Chakotay sighed, imagining how well the captain would take this news. “And when will she start that process?”
“Not until the pain medication begins to wear off. As I suspected, they have her heavily drugged right now, so she won’t face withdrawal for another day or so.” He clicked his tongue. “They refuse to treat a simple injury and then usher people toward their deaths. I am amazed.”
“When there is no hope for recovery,” Chakotay replied, “reducing suffering is the humane thing to do.”
“I could argue that point, but only if they had no choice. In this case, the Broden had a choice. They could have healed her injury, and they didn’t need to give her this drug to help her expire.”
“It’s part of their religious beliefs.”
The EMH just sighed. “It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
“ii does seem illogical.” Chakotay’s eyes suddenly felt gritty with exhaustion. “Will you be ready to help her when she comes off the drug?”
“I should be able to synthesize a substitute that will let her wean herself from it in a matter of a week to ten days.”
“Oh, boy. Ten days of withdrawal and two weeks of rehab? Good thing you’re a hologram or she might jettison you out an airlock.”
“I can be decompiled, you know.” He returned to the surgical cowl and worked on her knee for a moment. “Commander, do you have any idea how close we came to losing her?”
“I’d say an hour.” He looked up and frowned. “She wasn’t on death’s door, she was halfway through it.”
Chakotay’s throat closed and tears burned behind his eyes. The room tilted and went out of focus, and then he opened his eyes to find himself on a biobed looking up at the doctor’s worried face.
“What happened,” he wondered.
“You passed out from exhaustion, Commander. You have been through a harrowing experience and have gotten little or no sleep in nearly two days. I suggest you take some time off, get some food and rest, and then return to duty.”
“I planned to return to my quarters after I checked on the captain.”
“I realize that, but the captain is going to need your support as she gets off these drugs. She’ll need you to take the bridge, and she’ll also need help with her treatment.”
“I imagine Tuvok and I will take turns doing that.”
“An excellent plan. She will need you then, but she doesn’t need you right now.”
Chakotay looked over at the critical care alcove and realized that whether or not she needed him, he needed her. The thought of leaving her here and walking to his quarters was just too much to consider. “Is it okay if I sleep right here in sickbay, doc? When I have a little more energy, I’ll go back to my quarters.”
“Suits me, as long as you don’t snore.”
“I’m not making any promises.” Chakotay smiled and closed his eyes. It had been the longest two days of his life, but the worst was over. All that remained was surviving the captain’s drug treatment and physical therapy. Compared to what he’d been through, dealing with Kathryn’s impatience and frustration sounded like a good time. His only real concern was her reaction to the “death ritual” he performed at the ashram.
It was possible that his days outside the brig were numbered.